Habs Make It Two Straight, Beat Carolina 2-1

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Habs Make It Two Straight, Beat Carolina 2-1

Max Pacioretty scored the only goal in regulation and Sven Andrighetto’s shoot-out goal won the Habs another 2 points in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Yes, the Habs posted their second win in as many days, and for the first time since November 27th when they enjoyed a 4-game streak. Sunday afternoon, in their second of a back-to-back matinee, the Habs beat Carolina in a shootout, 2-1.

And of course, the fans are back on top of the world, which is understandable, given the months-long downer of losing more often than not.

But let’s keep some perspective: it’s 2 wins, and there is a lot of hockey left to play this season.

First, the game.

Other than Jeff Skinner‘s first-period goal, and Max Pacioretty’s 2nd-period equalizer, the game was fairly sedate. There were exciting moments – both good and bad – as both teams fought to go ahead, but nothing connected. This is not only testament to Cam Ward‘s exceptional reputation and talent, but to Ben Scrivens on the Habs’ side.

Scrivens was put in nets for the second of the back-to-back weekend games, which was surprising; though with the winning formula so strong on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, it’s likely Michel Therrien was pleased with what he saw and chose to give his second back-up a chance to repeat his solid performance on Sunday.

Scrivens managed to make some incredible saves, which is how the score stayed so low and the Habs so competitive. He made 34 saves out of 34 shots, and came up big.

In fact, he was able to keep the puck out of his net on numerous occasions when confusion might have rattled a lesser goaltender. He came up with the saves, deflections, and even playing the puck to his teammates when it came his way.

There were a couple of shaky moments in the first period, but he recovered nicely and deserved the first star he was awarded at the end of the game.

The 3-on-3 overtime was entertaining, exciting, and it was a rare OT where we were able to see strategy for this new format, and to see that strategy work. I’m definitely becoming a fan of the 3-on-3.

Another player who deserves mention is P.K. Subban. There has been much criticism of Subban – well, that’s not new, but since his contract, and as this season wore on with fewer goals scored by him than last year, there were those who felt he wasn’t living up to the contract.

I have vehemently disagreed – and continue to do so. He has now posted 9 points in his last 6 games, on a 6-game point streak, and is not only dynamic, but key to this team.

He continues to play hard, and even when he hasn’t been part of a goal, his puck work is so much fun to watch. Other than Brendan Gallagher, P.K. is the guy to watch when keeping a frustrated opponent off the puck. His pivots, dodges, and weaves are incredibly effective, and when he opens up and hustles down the ice, he is a sight to see.

That is, of course, over and above his tremendous shot which, when hitting the mark, is as perfect as any. He also possesses exceptional hockey sense, and it shows when he makes on-the-spot decisions.

Also marking milestones in Sunday’s game were Andrei Markov – playing his 900th game (all with the Habs) – and Torrey Mitchell (in his 500th career NHL game).

Sven Andrighetto – scoring the only shootout goal (by either team) showed why we all hope he has earned a spot on the roster for the rest of the season. He is talented, his work ethic is tangible, and his humility fits in well with the attitude of this club; when interviewed after the game,  he mistakenly believed this was his first shootout goal.

It was not. On November 27th – ironically, the last game that saw the Habs in consecutive wins until this weekend – Andrighetto scored the first goal, and won the game for the Habs with his first NHL shootout goal.

Andrighetto is clearly enjoying the experience, and every time he hits the ice, he makes a difference. Here is his shootout/game-winning goal:

It was good to see Max Pacioretty back on the scoresheet, with his 20th goal this season.

I stand by my hesitation to call this a Comeback, though two in a row is a solid beginning. But to see guys like Pacioretty score, Markov assist, the entire team playing more cohesively through 3 periods, and an overtime, it bodes well for future games.

Holding off an OT loss is crucial with the new format. The Habs did so, admirably, and playing focused, disciplined, and organized hockey. There were fewer mistakes made in this 4-point weekend stretch, there were more signs of the Habs we have seen before, and I cautiously offer optimism.

There are many fans on both ends of the spectrum. Those planning the Parade, and those already resigned to the next losing streak. It is important to keep some perspective, and that will emerge as the month rolls out.

Whatever has been plaguing this team, there’s no sign that it is completely gone; but the glimmers of hope, and the smiles of victory we’re all experiencing do help to dispel the gloom that cast its shadow over December and January.

The question for the immediate future is: will the Habs keep Scrivens between the pipes for the next game? I believe they will, only because he has shown confidence and success; it is no reflection on Mike Condon, but as Condon has played the lion’s share of games, and there is still no sign of Carey Price returning (if he does at all, this season), why not play the winning goalie?

Plus there’s that superstition thing; sticking with the winning formula has proven to be successful, at least for a while.

We did hear this after the game:

Excellent news. There have been many penalty kills since Paul Byron was injured January 19, and each one leaves us all wishing Byron’s short-handed-goal scoring could be back with the team. Hopefully we will see him back in the line-up and dazzling us with his skating and his talented hands.

Next game is Tuesday February 9th, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Bell Centre. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.

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